What is Structural Fire Protection?
What is Structural Fire Protection?

There are generally two definitions of structural fire protection. The first is used to describe the overall approach that should be taken to protecting a building from fire. In this definition there are three core elements to structural fire protection. They are:

  • Fire Prevention – this includes selecting non-flammable materials for a building and designing the layout of a building to avoid potential sources of fire.
  • Active Fire Protection – this includes many of the things people most commonly think of as fire protection such as fire alarms and sprinkler systems.
  • Passive Fire Protection – this includes breaking buildings up into compartments to contain and slow down the spread of fire. It also includes measures to protect structural elements such as steel beams.

The second definition of structural fire protection focuses just on the last aspect, passive fire protection. In this sense structural fire protection just refers to the protection of steel beams and other structural aspects of buildings from damage by fire.

Whichever definition of structural fire protection you use the basic ideas and concepts involved are the same. It is about designing buildings, and choosing materials for buildings, that will allow it to maintain its integrity during a fire. This will include choosing materials to encase structural elements such as steel beams. Depending on the situation this can be done using heat resistant, or intumescent, coatings and sprays, or it can be done by boxing in the steel with fire resistant boards.

Just covering the structural steel is not enough to ensure full structural fire protection. To do this other aspects of passive fire protection should also be included in the building design. This will include breaking the building up into compartments which can contain a fire for a reasonable amount of time. It will also include ensuring proper firestop systems are in place to prevent fires from spreading along cabling or other utility services and breaking out of the fire compartments that have been designed.

If the firestop materials and the compartmentalisation work properly then the spread of fire should be slowed down significantly, allowing time for firefighters to arrive. Any structural damage should also be contained within the fire compartments. Therefore if a steel beam does become weakened in one compartment the structural integrity of the rest of the building should not be compromised and there should not be a significant collapse.

Planning for structural fire protection is a requirement in UK building regulations and should be incorporated into any new buildings or refurbishment projects.

 

CPS Systems are FIRAS Certified for our expertise in designing and installing passive fire protection and structural fire protection systems. If you need help with the design or installation of a passive fire protection system please give us a call on 08000 460456